EASA Issues Airbus A350 Lightning Protection Directive For 13 Jets

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has issued a proposed airworthiness directive (AD) that relates to the Expanded Copper Foil (ECF) on 13 Airbus A350s. The regulator has preliminarily warned that the material that offers lighting protection may have not been installed properly on these widebodies’ wing covers.

Airbus A350
Airbus has been busy communicating with regulators and airlines about factors regarding its popular twinjet widebody. Photo: Getty Images

Potential risk

There could be significant risks if a series of events occur. EASA notes that if a heavy lightning strike happens in the same area where an adjacent fastener is incorrectly fitted, fuel vapor could ignite and the A350’s jet could suffer from “consequent loss.”

According to Reuters, the proposed AD calls for gradual inspections. Moreover, repairs would be required necessary. Nonetheless, EASA does not demand that any of the aircraft be grounded. 

The 13 planes mentioned by EASA were delivered between 2016 and 2020. Across the industry, 10 different carriers operate these units.

Airbus A350 Loading Getty
The Airbus A350 is a powerhouse on long missions, efficiently conducting passenger and cargo operations across the skies. Photo: Getty Images

A350 woes

Certain airlines have been raising concerns about A350 structures over the last few years. Notably, Qatar Airways grounded 13 of its units in August, prompting the return of the Airbus A380 to its services.

The flag carrier of Qatar mentioned accelerated degradation below the paint. However, at the time, EASA shared that it didn’t intend on taking any action. The likes of Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Lufthansa, Air France, and Finnair have also complained about related issues.

Furthermore, Reuters also shares that Delta Air Lines has recently found problems with one of its units. The Atlanta-based carrier expressed that it is the first time it has witnessed issues on a limited scale. 

Finnair initially reported troubles regarding ECF protection in 2019. Airbus has since confirmed that this incident was an isolated production issue and has been fixed.

Delta Airlines Aircraft At Sydney Airport
Delta Air Lines joins a host of other carriers noticing issues with the Airbus A350. Photo: Getty Images

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

A word from the manufacturer

Airbus told Simple Flying that the proposed AD is a “normal part of the continued airworthiness process”. In regard to the paint problems, the company shared that it understands the root cause and it is working with EASA. 

The firm added that it is collaborating with its customers to provide enhancements. It also said that airlines have the details to continue operation and the airworthiness of the aircraft is not affected.

Overall, the A350 has proved to be a fan favorite of both carriers and customers across the globe. The plane’s balance of economics and comfort has enabled it to become a flagship in several long-haul fleets.

The A350 Freighter is also gaining traction, despite the likes of Qatar being deterred following the existing paint worries. Airbus and its customers will undoubtedly be keen to address these structure concerns heading into 2022. 

What are your thoughts about EASA issuing a directive for lighting protection on 13 Airbus A350s? Also, what do you make of the ongoing reports of paint issues? Let us know what you think of the overall situation in the comment section.